Heading into the South Beach Cinema for an opening-weekend glimpse of the dance-culture flick Better Living Through Circuitry,it's immediately obvious how far underground the rave scene still is. Although it's mere minutes from landmark dance clubs, on this Saturday evening the small theater is populated by a hearty crowd of ten people.
It is only 7:40, so maybe it's just too early for nocturnal clubbers to surface. Or maybe the word documentary is keeping crowds at bay. Whatever the case the film -- subtitled A Digital Odyssey Into the Electronic Dance Underground-- is neither a comprehensive ride through electronica history nor an exposé on raver lifestyle. It falls somewhere in between, providing neophyte scensters and outsiders a general overview of this complex subculture and the music-industry segment it supports.
Circuitry takes us jump-cut fashion from footage of blissed-out, pacifier-sucking ravers in action to interview segments with techno luminaries past and present. Jack Dangers, cofounder of the seminal early-'90s industrial/dance project Meat Beat Manifesto, weighs in on the early days of the scene. The freaky Genesis P. Orridge, a onetime member of the even earlier experimental industrial outfit, Throbbing Gristle, compares the underground aesthetic and DIY ethic of electronica to the early punk scene. Überzone, a.k.a. funky break guru Timothy Wiles, declares his debt of gratitude to 1970s German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk, taking things way back. Pop-techno trance DJ and producer BT (Brian Transeau) talks technology only fellow studio geeks would understand, and Las Vegas big-beat purveyors the Crystal Method kick it in their garage-cum-studio for the camera. Veteran DJs, producers, and musicians like Moby, Roni Size, Carl Cox, DJ Keoki, and Frankie Bones, among others, also discuss the state of the scene and its history.
As in any feature-length documentary, not everything is covered. But that's all right. The film allows us to connect personalities to the usually faceless music, and the soundtrack rips. After all, according to New York graphic designer and rave promoter Joel Jordon: "It's about dancing first and foremost, and it's about bringing people together, and it's about creating this, you know, instant feeling, this oblivion, this, like, particular one-night oblivion where nothing else outside that room matters."
Apparently nothing that happens outside of your own body matters when in a whirling-dervish dance frenzy; as one teen raver squeals: "I've had an orgasm on the dance floor, I will admit."